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What are SMART goals?

If you’ve ever taken a business management class for school, you have likely heard about the SMART mnemonic device. If this sounds unfamiliar or you need a refresher course on how SMART works, then read on.

SMART refers to a mnemonic device used for setting goals in project management or personal development. While many variations exist, most commonly, SMART stands for:

  • Specific – The goal refers to a singular idea, concept, or task.
  • Measurable – The goal is quantifiable or tracks a metric of progress.
  • Achievable – The goal is attainable.
  • Relevant – The goal is related to the overall project mission.
  • Time-bound – The goal should define when the result can be achieved.

Bottom line: the objective is to use SMART to write clearer goals that produce stronger results.

 

What are the benefits of SMART goals?

Easy to communicate – SMART goals are designed to be easily communicated to other team members with little room for confusion. Instead of arguing over the scope of any given project, everyone can be on the same page just by using SMART criteria. By establishing clear goals, we cut down on wasted time and miscommunication.

Trackable – The most frustrating aspect of any project is not knowing how much progress has been made, and how much is left until completion. SMART circumvents this issue by forcing leaders to make achievable and measurable goals.

Clear vision of success – SMART goals clearly define success as it relates to the project, while also identifying the possible pitfalls and obstacles of the goal. It’s easy for team members to make mistakes or focus on less relevant priorities. SMART goals help keep the team in check and on track.

Attainable, bite-sized goals – If you set the ambitious goal of making $1 million in one year, your team would likely balk at the suggestion. However, setting a SMARTgoal of $250,000 each quarter feels much more realistic.

Facilitates prioritization – Your daily to-do list probably contains a dozen or more items at any given time, and it can be difficult to understand which tasks deserve the most attention. With SMART, the scope, relevance, and pertinence of every objective is clearly defined, allowing you to make educated decisions on which objectives to prioritize.

 

What does a SMART goal look like?

Below are several examples of SMART goals in action. Notice that each goal is clear, time-sensitive, and highlights a specific metric to track.

1. “Reduce overtime in the department from 150 hours per month to 50 hours per month by the end of the fiscal year with no increase in incident reports.”

2. “Acquire 45,000 new online customers this financial year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of $30 with an average profitability of $5.”

3. “Review all customer accounts above $20K/year revenue and schedule a strategic review with the top five with the greatest opportunity for upsell.”

4. “Present at two or more internal employee per quarter to improve confidence and presenting skills. Improve industry knowledge by attending 3+ industry events and provide a write-up to the rest of the team on key learnings afterward.”

5. “Spend two days per month building my customer understanding by shadowing teammates in operations and sales; deliver a write-up at the end on key learnings to the rest of the team.”

Want more examples of SMART goals in business? Check out this useful list from Notejoy.

 

Tips for implementing SMART goals

Forming a SMART goal might seem intimidating, but all it requires is critical thinking and engaged insight from the whole team. We recommend following the tips below for a successful SMART goal implementation.

Consult from your team. SMART goals are most effective when they are collaborative. Make sure to get different perspectives from people of all backgrounds and disciplines. By involving others in the process, you can ensure that the goals you’ve set have the input and support of the entire team.

Use SMART for strategic and tactical decisions. SMART isn’t reserved for daily or monthly goals. It can also apply to a longer time scale and bigger projects. Be sure to implement SMART on all levels for maximum effect.

Schedule check-ins to track progress. Just because SMART goals are measurable and attainable doesn’t mean certain tasks won’t slip through the cracks.. Sometimes tasks are forgotten, or others take precedence. Checking in to refocus work periodically can drastically improve the progression of your SMART goals.

 

The SMART mnemonic isn’t a silver bullet— companies will still need to train employees to ensure they follow SMART procedures and criteria. Nevertheless, SMART can help demystify and deconstruct the concept of goal setting in a way that is more digestible and actionable. Try it out for yourself— it might take some time to adjust, but ultimately it will help you complete projects and set direction for your company more successfully than ever before.